A primary problem is xerosis, or simply put, very dry skin. Anyone can get dry skin, but older adults are more susceptible. They're also more likely to take medications that can dry skin. Preventing and soothing dry skin is important because xerosis is an underlying cause of other skin disorders, such as eczema or an infection.

Without extra care to retain proper moisture balance, dry skin can become rough, scaly, flaky and itchy and appear gray or ashen in people with dark skin tones. Very dry skin sets up a maddening cycle. Dry skin is itchy, and scratching tears it. Continued itching and scratching can cause a condition called lichenification—hardened, thickened, leathery patches.

Dry skin cracks easily, may bleed or weep and heals slowly, allowing germs to enter through breaks and cracks, causing infection. In this case, simply remoisturizing is unlikely to correct it. You may need a prescription cream or ointment to tame the itch and treatment to heal an infection or other condition.

Source: Prepared by the Editors of The Johns Hopkins Medical Letter: Health After 50

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 29 Jul 2013

Last Modified: 29 Jul 2013